Last winter I did not go:
no snow to guide me home,
the woods an icy swamp.
But early this year I returned–
my snowshoes catching on stubs of stick–
through hardhack and ironwood,
little hemlocks bent with snow,
eager to greet the secret oak–
her lowest branches thicker than coffins,
split trunk of porcupines and owls,
her crown of rattling leaves.
But where she had always been,
a gap in the air–
her trunk had split in two,
all her nests and burrows broken–
a pile of limbs and sticks.
When she fell,
every small ear
must have heard.
The snow was doing its best
to cover the wreck.
Spring will return, and summer.
Bats will shelter behind the loosened bark,
beetles and worms will do their work,
woodpeckers will rip and feed.
Hurt trees die from the inside out.
Dead trees decay from the outside in.
I asked a forester how long
till she returns. He said:
Till there’s no trace?
As long as she took to grow.